We found that 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MC) could induce the reactivation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication in OM 10.1 cell, promyelocytic cell line latently infected with HIV-1. Transient luciferase expression experiments have revealed no particular transcription factors that are responsible for the effect of 3-MC in inducing HIV-1 gene expression as HIV-1 LTR mutants lacking various upstream transcriptional activators similarly responded to 3-MC. In addition, there was no effect of 3-MC on the DNA binding activity of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappaB) that was previously reported to be crucial for the effect of 2, 3, 7, 8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), a chemical homologue of 3-MC. However, overexpression of wild type aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a nuclear receptor of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as 3-MC, augmented the effect of 3-MC in the induction of gene expression from HIV-1 LTR. Moreover, a dominant negative mutant of AhR dramatically reduced the 3-MC-mediated activation of HIV-1 LTR. These findings suggest that 3-MC stimulates HIV-1 transcription by interacting with general transcription factors. Our observations indicate that chronic exposure of the HIV-1 infected individuals to PAHs may be contributable to the clinical development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) among the individuals infected with HIV.